A NIGHT WITH THE SPHINX 13
with gloomy brow upon the smooth planks of the Bellerophon: which, slightly melancholy, had seen the attention of the whole world fixed upon its country when the tomb of one of its proud Pharaohs was opened, his mummified carcase and regal ornaments becoming the prey of modern curiosity.
Those stone eyes of the Sphinx had s^en all this and more, and now, disdainful of men who fret themselves over trivial and transient activities, indifferent to the endless cavalcade of human joy and suffering which passes across the Egyptian valley, knowing that the great events of time are destined and inescapable, they gaze out of their large sockets into eternity. Yes, one felt powerfully that, themselves changeless, they look across the shifts of time into the beginnings of the world, into the darkness of the unknown.
And then the Sphinx turned soot black and the sky lost its silver-grey opalescence, the while darkness, complete, all-absorbing, conquered the desert.
But the Sphiiix still held me, still gripped my attention as with powerful magnetism. For now, I felt, with the approach of night it was coming into it;s own. The background of darkness was its appropriate setting, and in the mystic quality of an African night it would breathe a fitting atmosphere. Ra and Horus, Isis and Osiris, and all the vanished gods of Egypt come creeping back at night, too. So I determined to wait until moon and star should combine to reveal the true Sphinx once more. I sat alone, and yet, despite the profound desolation of the desert, I did not, nay, I could not, feel lonely.
The nights of Egypt are strangely different from the nights of Europe. Here they are soft-rooted, mysteriously palpitant with a host of unseen lives, shaded to an indigo blue whose effect upon sensitive minds is magical; there they are somewhat hard, brutally matter-of-fact, and definitely black.
I perceived this for the hundredth time, when the first evening stars joyously reappeared, twinkling as dose and bright as they can never be in Europe; when a seductive slip of a moon revealed her presence; and when the sky became a canopy of blue velvet.
And now I began to see the Sphinx that tourists seldom see: first the bold dark outline, cut from the living rock, as high as